ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Democrats seeking a northeastern Minnesota congressional seat waited for workers to end shifts at mines and mills and invaded restaurants Monday in a final push for votes ahead of a too-close-to-call primary.
That race, which will determine a November opponent for Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack, shared the spotlight Tuesday with a Republican contest in the southern part of the seat to pick a challenger for Democratic Rep. Tim Walz.
Besides the competitive races in the 1st and 8th Congressional Districts, the primary also features U.S. Senate races, some 40 multi-candidate contests in legislative districts and nonpartisan primaries for two Minnesota Supreme Court seats. Without any high-profile statewide contests, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie predicted turnout would be light, with slightly less than 15 percent of eligible voters weighing in.
The 8th District Democratic race turned negative last week when Tarryl Clark ran a TV ad accusing Rick Nolan of “a blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars” as head of the Minnesota World Trade Center more than two decades ago.
Nolan struck back, calling the ad “gutter politics,” and the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party came to his defense with a radio ad calling Clark “just another politician who will say or do anything to get elected” after her recent move into the district after losing to Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann two years ago.
“It’s too bad she decided that she needed to go negative,” said Nolan campaign manager Mike Misterek. “That’s just not the way we do politics up here.”
Nolan, Clark, a former state senator, and Jeff Anderson, a former Duluth City councilor, are vying for the chance to reclaim a seat that Cravaack snatched from longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar in a surprise two years ago. Outside groups including Washington-based Emily’s List, which helps women candidates who support abortion rights, and Washington-based Friends of Democracy, a super PAC funded by the son of magnate George Soros, have already spent more than $520,000 on the race. That includes about $160,000 each for Clark and Nolan and almost $200,000 against Cravaack.
Clark has pulled in far more money than her primary rivals with the backing of Emily’s List. She had raised $1.1 million through late July, compared with almost $360,000 for Nolan and $170,000 for Anderson.
Clark campaign manager Joe Fox said the campaign was pushing all out to get voters to the polls on Tuesday.
“She’s been the most active candidate across the district,” Fox said. “Others may contend that, but the truth is no candidate has done consistently nearly as many stops at all different types of venues and events, some pre-existing, some not, everywhere from International Falls down to North Branch.”
The ad exchange between Clark and Nolan highlighted the weaknesses of each — Nolan’s age, 68, has been a potential negative because it ties him to an earlier era. Clark has been called a district-shopper after moving into a leased condo in Duluth last year.
Anderson, who was born and raised on the Iron Range, was seen as less experienced and had far less money for his campaign. But campaign spokesman Nate Dybvig said the others’ attacks weren’t hurting.
“The negative advertising is really helping us a lot,” Dybvig said Monday. “People aren’t looking for that sort of stuff.”
Nolan was relying on the DFL Party’s help to turn out primary voters after getting the endorsement. He campaigned in the giant district’s northern and western reaches on Monday, starting at the Boise Cascade mill in International Falls and ending with a rally headlined by Sen. Al Franken in Brainerd.
Clark, a former state senator, campaigned on the Iron Range and in Duluth, including a picket with striking auto dealer workers in Duluth. She was hoping that former President Bill Clinton’s support — he made a cameo in some of her TV ads — would cement some votes.
Cravaack stayed out of the primary campaign, saying he saw little difference between the Democrats on the issues. He planned to kick off his campaign on Wednesday with a tour of the district. With the Democrats spending their money on the primary, he had $920,000 yet to spend by late July.
Anderson concentrated on rounding up votes in Duluth and on the Iron Range. He greeted Hibbing miners as they changed shifts Monday morning. Supporters including Duluth Mayor Don Ness and state Rep. Tom Rukavina were leading a rally for him in Duluth.
Meanwhile, Republican Mike Parry pushed to finish a tour of southern Minnesota’s 1st District, starting the day in Mankato and ending in Rochester. The state senator from Waseca has been on the defensive since he claimed last week that he saw Gov. Mark Dayton pop 15 to 16 pills in a meeting. The remark, which came after Parry made an issue of decades-old comments primary opponent Allen Quist had made about social issues, drew a spirited denial from Dayton and condemnation for Parry.
Parry adviser Ben Golnik said Parry was connecting with voters on issues including the deficit and repealing the federal health care law.
Quist campaign manager Julie Quist, the candidate’s wife, said the former state representative from St. Peter was doing several media interviews on Monday. She said he has remained focused on eliminating the deficit as his key campaign issue.
Walz campaign manager Sara Severs said the three-term Democrat will be in Mankato Tuesday when the primary results come in.
Elsewhere Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar had no major competition and was expected to advance easily. Republican Kurt Bills, his party’s preferred candidate, had two challengers in his primary. The Independence Party also had a contested party between Stephen Williams and Glen Menze.
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